When Cécile played Ronnie Scott’s in June this year, one knew it was going to be a revelation and a triumph - she oozed talent and charisma. When she recently played Cadogan Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, with a thirty minute support gig from wonder jazz guitarist Femi Temowo, there was a silent excitement in the audience, an incredible rush of adrenalin running along each row of the people filling up the Hall.
Photograph: Erminia Yardley
It is very good news to see that the line-up has not changed and it is the same as the one she used at Ronnies; I am a great fan of the four members of this band and I am looking forward to the show.
Opening the show with the atmospheric and sombre tone of Personne (Nobody) is significant; recent tragic events in Paris are remembered by Cécile in this way. It is sung with tact and a forlorn mood.
Aaron Diehl on piano is the impeccable, smiling young man, effortlessly creating the best notes on earth, whether sad or joyous. His time-keeping and silent glances towards Cécile say it all - these two know the meaning of music, how to make it come alive and best of all, how to create a feeling.
The mood is shaken by a fresh rendition of Irving Berlin’s Let’s Face The Music And Dance and then It Ain’t Necessarily So (Gershwin) which gives the crowd another reason to be cheerful, part IV...Cécile’s portentous voice!
Kurt Weill, one of Cécile’s favourite composers, makes an appearance with Somehow I Never Could Believe from the opera Street Scene. Aaron Diehl has arranged this particular piece, so Cécile steps aside on the stage to give space to him and Paul Sikivie on bass starting off until she starts singing with absolute gravité and purity. And listening to the words makes one sad and attentive at the same time. Another piece well chosen and sung: Cécile’s voice piercing through one’s heart, shattering any hard ones and breaking any remaining ones. Literally: not for the faint-hearted.
Photograph: Eden Ruddick
A powerful performance for The Trolley Song (Martin/ Blane) sees Cécile sing first, joined by Aaron and then the whole band together. A power machine.
An amazing array of well selected pieces is always to be expected by Ms Salvant & co. On this occasion she treats the audience to I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (Williams/Piron from 1919), Monday, a very short potent self-penned song, I Get A Kick Out Of You (Porter), all featuring such original arrangements. Another Cole Porter’s song So In Love, which she also performed at Ronnies in June, is a clear reminder of how Aaron Diehl’s dramatic piano adds even more gravitas to her rendition.
But it is when she sings You Gotta Give Me Some by the stupendous Empress of the Blues, Miss Bessie Smith, that one starts realizing how Cécile’s interpretation is all hers - naughty and different all in one! (The song is performed just by Aaron and Cécile).
She is magnificently gifted, obscenely so.
Playing for over two hours and with a standing ovation at the end, Cécile returns to the stage to sing one more song just with her voice: utterly beautiful.
Line up: Cécile McLorin Salvant – vocals, Aaron Diehl – piano, Paul Sikivie – bass, Lawrence Leathers – drums
Words: Erminia Yardley
Photographs: Eden Ruddick & Erminia Yardley